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Our former parish priest,

Fr Francis Worden

22 October 1911-25 April 2000

Fr. Worden was born in St Annes-on-Sea, the youngest of eight children. He went to school at Our Lady Star of the Sea in St Anne's and then to St Joseph's College, Blackpool. From St Joseph's he moved on to the junior and then the senior seminary at Upholland. He was ordained priest at St Peter's Cathedral in Lancaster on 23rd May 1937.

Fr Worden began his life as a priest by serving as Assistant at St Mary's, Fleetwood until 1947. He moved to St Thomas's, Claughton-on-Brock for about two years and then to St Cuthbert's, Blackpool until 1952. In 1952 Fr Worden became a parish priest for the first time, remaining at Arnside and Milnthorpe for three years. He spent a further four years at St Andrew's, Cottam then another eight at Our Lady Star of the Sea in St Anne's-on-Sea, his home parish. Finally he was appointed in 1967 to Our Lady and St Edward's, Fulwood where he remained until his retirement in 1988, though even then he did not rest for he took up a post as chaplain at the Little Sisters Convent on Garstang Road, Fulwood. Fr Frank Flynn, who served as his curate at Our Lady and St Edward's and who gave the address at his funeral Mass said that he "treasured the memories of

people in all of those places and often used to talk about them."

The parish of Our Lady and St Edward was rapidly expanding at this time, with new houses being built on both sides of the main Garstang Road. It was soon 'standing room only' for the later arrivals at Mass and the school was overflowing - 410 pupils in a school built for 280! Eventually by 1971 a new school was begun - and a new parish. Until 1979 the school hall was used as a mass centre. Fr Worden had to choose a name. He was not allowed to choose St Francis, his own patron, as there was already a parish of that name nearby, so, feeling that a female saint was needed, he chose St Clare, who was a friend of St Francis. St Clare's was soon a flourishing - and growing - parish with a school of 280 pupils.

Fr Worden always gave his active support to all the groups within the parish and attended many meeting regularly, especially the Bible study . He will be remembered also for the efforts he made to bring the

Christians together, his work culminating in the signing of the covenant and the beginning of Churches Together in Fulwood and Broughton.

The personal friendship of Fr Worden and Canon Adams of the Parish Church of St John the Baptist's at Broughton led to a joint outdoor service of witness on Good Friday at the St George's Playing Fields, though it was eventually discontinued as it was rarely graced by fair weather.

However, Church Unity Week in 1970 began with Fr Worden and Canon Adams preaching sermons in each other's churches and this became an annual event. Encouraged by the Call to the North by church leaders in the North of England regular services throughout the year were held in both churches. . Fr Worden became a member of the Diocesan Ecumenical Commission and was very involved from 1974 in the Preston Council of Churches, the local initiative in inter-denominational co-operation.

 

After Vatican II

There were many changes to the liturgy during Fr Worden's years as Parish Priest, not least the change from Latin to English, the turning of the altar to face the people and the opening up of the sanctuary. It was his task to introduce and explain these changes, which he did with patience and understanding, particularly to the older members of the parish. He encouraged the development of new styles of music and worship which enabled the congregation to participate more fully in the liturgy.

The role of the laity was becoming much greater in the church since the Vatican Council of 1962 and Fr Worden opened the first parish council in September 1976. The priests and the twelve elected lay members now began working together, discussing both the spiritual and temporal needs of the parish.

One example of a development from this co-operation is that Fr Worden was at last able to begin a branch of the Society of St Vincent de Paul in 1981, nine
years after he had first suggested it, the idea having first been rejected on the grounds than it was 'not needed' in an affluent parish. Fr Worden's foresight has

 

 

 

 

 

 

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been well vindicated by the work of the society, both within the parish with the elderly and the sick and in involvement in many projects both nearby and abroad.

1987 saw the celebration of Fr Worden's Golden Jubilee. On Saturday May 23rd mass was concelebrated with Bishop John Brewer and several priests in a packed church and was followed by a reception in the Parish Centre to which the congregation were invited. There were special events throughout the week, concerts in the both junior and secondary schools and a parish dinner was held at Bartle Hall. Although he retired not long afterwards, Fr Worden continued to be a regular visitor to parish events for many years until prevented by ill-health.

The last words belong to Fr Frank Flynn, formerly a curate in our parish:

"He was a true man of prayer....always so gentle and kind, courteous and self-effacing, patient and compassionate; and he always gave so generously of his time."